President & CEO’s Message
Gavin C. Dirom M.Sc., P. Ag. President & CEO, AME
It was certainly anything but a quiet summer in British Columbia. From the Tsilhqot’in judgment to the Mount Polley mine tailings incident, there was much going on to say the least! Notwithstanding these major events, over the past three months AME has offered its perspectives on public policy regarding mineral exploration and development at the federal Energy and Mines Ministers conference in Sudbury, the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Whistler and in the annual provincial budget consultation process that AME selected to participate in at Williams Lake.
And perhaps lost in the news, but very noteworthy for the future of mineral exploration and development in British Columbia, was the official opening of the Northwest Transmission Line on August 13. This nation-building transmission line was a focus of partnership and advocacy work by AME and the Northwest Power Line Coalition. The recent commissioning of the power line gives us an opportunity to reflect on how so many people from industry, First Nations, communities and the provincial and federal governments successfully worked together, overcame obstacles, and built the line in the interest of every citizen of BC and Canada. AME celebrates the efforts of those who contributed to this legacy infrastructure project over the past ten years, and we thank government for their leadership in providing funding for its construction. The transmission line has the potential to serve communities and new mines in what is known to many as the Golden Triangle, an area the size of France. This area has more than 935 mineral occurrences including ten potential mines (such as the Red Chris copper-gold mine expected to open in 2014) with the potential to create over 4,000 direct jobs and $18 billion in capital investment. Many of AME’s members have developed close business and personal relationships with Aboriginal communities in the region, and it is our hope and expectation that mineral exploration projects and mines will continue to be a major source of employment for local First Nations. Perhaps not widely known to most citizens, Canada’s mineral exploration and mining industry is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginal peoples, and this is clearly evident in the area to be served by the new transmission line in the northwest of British Columbia.
Earlier in the summer, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on June 26 that Aboriginal title over the land area as requested by the Tsilhqot’in Nation was granted. This decision confirms that provincial laws and regulations will continue to apply in the Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title land, subject to section 35 of the Constitution Act and the guidelines set down by the Court. An important reminder is that sub-surface minerals and coal resources are generally owned and administered by the Crown and managed in the public’s socioeconomic and strategic interest, for the greater good of all citizens of British Columbia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. While this is a complex and precedent-setting case, the path forward is for the federal and provincial governments to continue consulting with the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The outcome of such consultation should be enhanced certainty that will support further investment from the mineral exploration and development industry and create jobs and shared economic opportunity for all British Columbians, including the people of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
The breach of the Mount Polley mine tailings dam near Likely, BC on August 4 was a rare and serious incident of concern to everyone in the surrounding communities, government, First Nations and industry. While the cause is currently under investigation and environmental concerns are being methodically addressed, now is certainly not the time for anyone to speculate recklessly about public policy or seek an opportunity merely for short-term political or popular gain. Instead, this is a time when the citizens of BC expect stewardship and strong leadership that will inspire everyone to work together to remedy a matter of shared concern. Being an eternal optimist, I am confident that we can improve our collective futures if we collaborate and carefully consider all the scientific data, causal factors, remediation strategies and prevention options. As such, AME is supportive of the BC government’s creation of an expert panel to investigate the incident as well the ordered inspection of all tailings dam facilities in BC. Public trust and confidence in the industry and in BC’s highly credible and professional lab and field technicians, geotechnical and environmental scientists and engineers should be important to everyone.
AME also continues to actively participate in government consultations about proposed application fees for Mines Act permits. AME holds the position that prospecting and exploration activities should be exempt from any such fees because these activities produce no revenue for prospectors and explorers. No other jurisdiction charges exploration permit fees; and such fees would be counter-productive to encouraging more investment in prospecting and exploring for new deposits in BC. To date, permit fees have not been determined, although the government has already indicated that some exploration activities would be exempt. We have also recommended that the BC Government rebuild the Ministry of Energy and Mines, by allocating an additional $10 million annually to address permitting and regulatory issues in a timely and effective manner; and increase the annual funding of the Geological Survey of BC to $4 million and Geoscience BC to $10 million to support enhanced public geoscience for mineral exploration and development as well as improved geotechnical and geohazard assessment in British Columbia.
This past summer, I was pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Glen Wonders as AME’s Vice President, Technical & Government Affairs. Glen will be responsible for key AME member issues related to land access & use, permitting, Aboriginal engagement, economic incentives and health & safety. Before joining the team at AME, Glen held the position of General Manager – Mining for Allnorth Consultants Limited based out of Prince George. Previously, Glen was Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability with Terrane Metals Corporation, where he focused on achieving regulatory approvals for the Mt. Milligan gold-copper mine project. As well, Glen served as Director of British Columbia’s Coal Resources with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
At this time of year, we are busy with final preparations for AME’s Mineral Exploration Roundup 2015 conference, to be held for the first time under the Canada Place sails at Vancouver Convention Centre East. The 32nd annual Roundup conference, from January 26 to 29, 2015, will feature excellent opportunities to network and learn, and to hear from our keynote speakers including Clive Johnson from B2Gold, Stephen McIntosh from Rio Tinto, Mike Ashar from Teck and Chuck Jeannes from Goldcorp.
On behalf of the staff and board of AME, I thank the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members of the Association for their valuable support and contributions. Finally, please remember to have a safe day, every day, wherever this quarterly message finds you!
Gavin C. Dirom, M.Sc., P. Ag.
President & CEO
Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia